Governor Neil Abercrombie today named Lt. Governor Brian Schatz as the person who will fill the Senate seat left vacant by Daniel Inoye. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had urged Abercrombie to appoint a successor with “due haste” as the Democrats have a vote coming up on Friday and need a full roster to hold on to their 53-47 majority. Schatz will fly to Washington D.C. tonight and be sworn in on Thursday. He will serve a term of two years and has indicated that he will vie for re-election in a special election in 2014. The Senate reconvenes on Thursday to take up the urgent business of reaching a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff on Jan. 1.
The Senate seat was held previously by Daniel Inoye, who died last week. The late Senator had written a letter to Abercrombie before his death to request that Rep. Colleen Hanabusa be his successor. When asked about this, Abercrombie told reporters that nothing was “preordained.” He added that if he had chosen Hanabusa, a special election would have been needed to fill the seat in the House that she currently holds. The Governor said that he took this into consideration, along with Hanabusa’s growing seniority in that chamber. The Representative holds a seat on the House Armed Services Committee which the Governor said it was “very vital” that she keep that position.
“Senator Inouye conveyed his final wish to Governor Abercrombie,” said Jennifer Sabas, Inouye’s chief of staff. “While we are very disappointed that it was not honored, it was the Governor’s decision to make.”
There were at least a dozen Democrats in Hawai’i who wanted Inoye’s seat and had filed letters with the state Democratic Party and lobbied their party for the position. CBS News reported that the party’s top three choices sent to Abercrombie were Hanabusa, Schatz and Esther Kia’aina, the deputy director of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources.